Source: Review copy
Publication: 5 November 2018 from Bantam Press
The most hotly anticipated thriller of 2018 follows our hero Jack Reacher on a quest into his father’s past, and climaxes in the most stomach-clenching, hair-raising, blood-curdling ticking time bomb of an adventure yet.
Jack Reacher plans to follow the autumn sun on an epic road trip across America, from Maine to California. He doesn’t get far. On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been – the town where his father was born. He thinks, what’s one extra day? He takes the detour.
At the very same moment, close by, a car breaks down. Two young Canadians are trying to get to New York City to sell a treasure. They’re stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere. It’s a strange place … but it’s all there is.
The next morning in the city clerk’s office, Reacher asks about the old family home. He’s told no one named Reacher ever lived in that town. He knows his father never went back. Now he wonders, was he ever there in the first place?
So begins another nail-biting, adrenaline-fuelled adventure for Reacher. The present can be tense, but the past can be worse. That’s for damn sure.
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” I have always thought that Jack Reacher is the personification of these words by Raymond Chandler and the rest of the quote absolutely applies.
It’s been a while since I picked up a Reacher book so I felt the time was right to give him another go. The formula hasn’t changed – if it ain’t broke, why fix it – but there are some added personal layers which make this one more than interesting.
A young couple with a suitcase that is clearly very precious to them are travelling from Canada to New York in a battered old Subaru when it breaks down, helpfully near an isolated motel in the woods which is preparing to open – or is it?
In the nearby town of Laconia, Jack Reacher has deviated from his hitchhiking route once more to root around in an old memory which means something to him. Laconia is the townn where his grandparents lived and he is curious enough about his family history to do some personal digging through the archives.
Of course, being Reacher, he’s hardly been there for 5 minutes when he needs to rescue a damsel in distress and in so doing make more than a few enemies.
How all this connects to the young couple isn’t revealed until later in the book, but suffice it to say that they are in the Motel, but it’s not proving to be their happy place.
I did work out what was happening to the couple fairly early on, but that did not detract from the action packed, tense drama that Child has created in Present Tense.
A strong female interest is of course also present to add a slight flavour of the other kind of tension that appears in Reacher books and the whole scenario plays out with flair and enthusiasm.
The prose is action packed and punchy;the plot drives the action forward as the young and seemingly naïve couple prove to be an interesting challenge for the Motel owners. Reacher’s family history adds another layer of interest to his frugal backstory.
As ever, what makes these books work so well is Child’s prose. Short, sharp sentences create the tension and make the story flow easily. His characters are always interesting and there are more than enough chilling moments and action sequences to make this a book that keeps you on tenterhooks as the story progresses. Child has hit the mark with this one and it is highly entertaining.
Verdict: High impact and high octane from this master of thriller writers. Child is on cracking form.
About Lee Child
Lee Child is one of the world’s leading thriller writers. He was born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham, and now lives in New York. It is said one of his novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every nine seconds. His books consistently achieve the number-one slot on bestseller lists around the world, and are published in over one hundred territories. He is the recipient of many prizes, most recently the CWA’s Diamond Dagger for a writer of an outstanding body of crime fiction.
Follow Lee Child on Twitter: @LeeChildReacher